For the people of Nigeria, 2020 was a gruelling year as they faced the COVID-19 pandemic, the continuing scourge of the extremist militant group Boko Haram, extrajudicial killings, and violent responses to popular protests against police brutality and other social and economic issues.
In a November letter to the Christian Council of Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), expressed shock at the violence perpetrated on 20 October against unarmed protestors at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos, "by security force personnel using live ammunition."
"We have been following with great concern the recent developments in your country in relation to the EndSARS protest and the mass demonstrations that started peacefully in early October 2020," wrote Sauca.
"Further, we have urged the government of Nigeria to act decisively to address the legitimate demands of the protesters," the pastoral letter said.
Protesters had called on the Nigerian government to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) due to the extrajudicial killings, torture and brutality of which it was accused, and to address other national issues such as banditry, kidnapping, and terrorism.
Sauca’s letter said the WCC had joined the voices of condemnation in Nigeria and around the world regarding the use of deadly force against unarmed people.
"We are aware of the hijacking in some cases of peaceful protests by criminal elements, resulting in the looting and destruction of public and private properties, and of ethnic and religious interpretations of the protest movement, giving rise to counter-protests in some parts of the country," the letter said.
Sauca also said that the WCC had sent a letter to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari urging his government to end the crisis and to ensure justice for the victims of SARS brutality and the Lekki Tollgate victims.
Elizabeth Azizi Ajegena, chairperson of the women wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the Northern States and Abuja said that recently there has been a "spontaneous outpouring" of national anger due to bad governance.
Ajegena said: "The current protests and EndSARS campaign in Nigeria are the culmination of years of police brutality, the incessant killing of innocent and harmless lives, especially Christians in Northern Nigeria.
"It reflects the suffering of Nigerians and members of the body of Christ as a result of negligence, insecurity and lack of commitment expressed by instituted authorities in the nation."
She said the protests signified a grave danger to Nigeria if the prevailing precarious situation facing the population is not addressed urgently.
"The campaign should be a wake-up call for the Nigerian church to rise up to its God-given mandate as the light of the world and the salt of the earth!" said Ajegena.
Ekpa Emmanuel Attai, national president of the youth wing of the Christian Council of Nigeria, said, "The current protests and EndSARs campaign show strong advocacy and yearning for a new approach to leadership and nation-building."
He thanked the WCC and people around the world for their support and prayers for the campaign.
‘Growing security challenges’
In December, Boko Haram said it was behind the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolboys in the north-western Nigerian state of Katsina that sparked international outrage, the BBC reported. "Nigeria is facing growing and disparate security challenges," reported the BBC on 15 December.
The Nigerian government's persistent inability to counter the terrorist activities of Boko Haram, which opposes Western education, has frequently drawn the ire of Nigerians.
The UN secretary-general's office on 13 December called for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted children and reaffirmed the UN’s support of the Nigerian people "in their fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime."